"We've been here the whole time. You were asleep. Time to wake up."
After a year-long silence, the full-length Twenty One Pilots album "Trench" has dropped. In the months prior to its release, the band drip-fed their fans little clues and hints about a fictional Illuminati-esque organization/cult called Dema and a mysterious figure named Clancy.
A trilogy of music videos fleshes out the story of Trench: "Jumpsuit," "Nico And The Niners" and "Levitate," in that order. This story pervades the album and, in a typical Twenty One Pilots fashion, the world of Trench is full of metaphors for mental health, suicide, and insecurity. For example, Nico, the leader of the bishops who run Dema, is also known as Blurryface, Tyler Joseph's personification of insecurity. There's a lot to explore in the lore behind the album and its prevalence in the lyrics, but I'm not yet qualified to talk about it, so I'll stick mainly to the sound of the album.
"Trench" has a distinct sound unlike any previous Twenty One Pilots album, which is both good and bad. As an EDM guy, I'm a little biased, and my favorite brand of Twenty One Pilots song is the "Slowtown"/"Car Radio"/"Trees"-type of song that builds to a wall of synths, drums, and Tyler screaming. On "Trench," I noticed more use of guitar and bass and fewer synths, which was a bummer for me on my first listen. But, after my third (and fourth, and fifth, and sixth . . .) time through the album, I started to really appreciate each and every song for what it is.
Every Twenty One Pilots album is dark and introspective, but "Trench" has its own flavor that's different from the rest, which I now realize is better than if it were just another "Vessel." I believe it was on my third run through that "Leave The City" really got to me, and I got chills throughout the song. I decided that rather than being disappointed by the lack of an explosive finish offered by "Leave The City," I can appreciate its sense of unease and lack of closure and then listen to "Trees" when I'm craving a wall of synths and a good Tyler scream.
Now that I've established my acquired taste for the album, allow me to share some of my absolute favorite parts. First of all, the music video for "My Blood" is so good, and your homework is to watch it in addition to the other three. Another great Twenty One Pilots staple is having the most depressing song sound the happiest. "Legend" is about Tyler Joseph's grandfather (the man on the right on the cover of Vessel) who passed away, and it's the brightest song on the album, complete with a ukulele.
The few times we do get the Tyler scream are amazing—I don't think I'll ever get tired of the last few seconds of "Jumpsuit," I just wish it went on a little longer. I loved that Tyler explored the use of artificially pitched backing vocals, which really helped fill out songs and made the builds more impactful. My favorite use is the end of "Chlorine." It's so, so good. As a final note, "Pet Cheetah" is an absolute banger.
I've come to learn that sometimes you'll hear music, but it won't capture you right away. It's sometimes taken years for me to be at a point in my life in which a song or album really gets to me. "Trench" was the fastest I turned around on an album, mainly due to my preconceptions of what a Twenty One Pilots album sounds like. Luckily, the band has proven that they refuse to follow a script, and we'll never get bored with Twenty One Pilots.